A United Kingdom (2016)
Directed by: Amma Asante | 111 minutes | biography, drama, romance | Actors: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Anastasia Hille, Charlotte Hope, Theo Landey, Abena Ayivor, Jack Lowden, Zackary Momoh, Nicholas Rowe, Billy Boyle
That love can conquer all opposition is shown by ‘A United Kingdom’. Based on true events, this story centers on Seretse Khama, prince of Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and Ruth Williams, his English wife. Seretse is sent as a prince to South Africa and England to receive a good education so that he can prepare for his future leadership duties in his homeland. In England he falls in love with Ruth Williams. It is love at first sight on both sides and after a few weeks Seretse proposes to Ruth, to which she says yes. But their relationship is influenced and opposed from all sides, by both the British government and Seretse’s uncle Tshekedi, then regent of Bechuanaland, and both of their families. Ruth’s father evicts her and the people of Seretse at first seem unwilling to accept that he returns with a white, English woman. For more than a decade, we follow Seretse and Ruth’s struggle for love, but also for political independence and against segregation.
Directed by Amma Asante (2013’s Belle), ‘A United Kingdom’ is a film that focuses on the power of love in a whirlwind of political interests. The political content of the film is high, but the main points are well explained and all the more understandable because they are related to the characters we follow throughout the film. Together with Ruth and Seretse, we find out about the political gears that turn to keep them from a happy life together.
Great acting by veteran actors (David Oyelowo, known for his role as Martin Luther King in ‘Selma’ and Oscar-nominated Rosamund Pike, known for her role in ‘Gone Girl’) makes this extraordinary story even more impressive. Together with the beautiful cinematography, filmed in the places where the story actually took place (in London and Botswana), this results in a very good film. We sympathize with Ruth and Seretse when they are both outsiders to the other’s people, we feel their despair and powerlessness when their relationship is affected by outside forces, but we also see the hope they both hold for a good outcome and a new future for a democratic and independent new Africa.
‘A United Kingdom’ tells the story of two brave people who love each other deeply and who never gave up their fight. Pike and Oyelowo show their abilities time and again and are perfectly cast for these roles. The supporting roles are also played by great actors, who complement the film and make it a whole.
What makes this film so special is that we witness two very different worlds connected by the love of two people. The contrast between England and Bechuanaland keeps recurring, both in the customs of the people and in the mise-en-scene of the film. While the events in London are fairly limited to the inside of buildings, in Bechuanaland the most important moments take place outside. And this sense of freedom is again contrasted by the political liberties and British rule. We also see this contrast in the lighting and colors. In London it is quite gray and dark, in Bechuanaland it is very light and there are many warm colors. The contrasts come together in the relationship between Seretse and Ruth, but are also emphasized by them, especially when they are both in the other’s world under duress from the British government.
‘A United Kingdom’ is a beautiful film in which racism and segregation lose out to love. An important message and lesson for us in our current society.